Being an occasional blogger, I struggle with the pitfalls and perils of not maintaining an online presence as frequently as many of my blogging colleagues. Perfectionism is always a dangerous thing for bloggers, is it not?
But when I hurled myself headlong into our new Connected Learning (an integrated curriculum) program and introducing Google Docs to over 180 Year 7 students last month, I thought I had found a worthy topic to resume my online pedagogical ramblings. For anyone who is unaware, an integrated curriculum usually combines several subjects into one large subject, which is often team-taught in larger classroom settings and may focus on themes which connect skills and content from the different disciplines being combined. Our integrated curriculum combines the subject areas of English, History, Geography and Religious Education.
We are currently in the throes of a unit entitled ‘My World’ which is mostly skills-based. What a good time, I thought, to introduce Google Docs?
Word to the wise: never assume that junior high school kids are capable of: (1) starting a Google account and verifying their email address; (2) spelling their email addresses; or (3) remembering their passwords. Had I the time over, Google Apps – which allows a teacher or education administrator to set up a school domain name and bulk email addresses – is a good option for getting kids online, especially when trying to work with 180 of them at once in a large learning space. But at least our kids learned that when you don’t spell correctly, verify an email account inquiry or remember your password (or any combination of these), you can’t expect to get on and start an assignment. Such learning curbs – priceless though they may be – also leave many a teacher with a hankering for ‘a valium sandwich,’ to quote one of my Connected Learning Colleagues.
Nevertheless, after about 4 50-minute lessons, much moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth, we had our entire Connected Learning cohort online, Google Doc’ing and collaborating in a real time frenzy of creativity.
If you haven’t had the chance to trial collaborative writing with your students, I thoroughly recommend it. If you have, I’d love to hear about some of the activities you’ve tried.